12/4--Miami at Lakers
I was at Staples Center, and I still can't believe what I saw.
The Lakers were dead. Down by four with nine seconds to go. But after Derek Fisher buried a three-pointer, I thought there might be hope. The Heat had been missing free throws all night, and when the Lakers fouled D'Wayne Wade intentionally, there was a decent chance he'd miss at least one of two (which he did). For the game, the Heat made just 27 of 42 free throws, shooting just 64%.
That left the Lakers with a decision: down 107-105 with 3.2 seconds left, who gets the ball? I've always argued in these situations that Kobe should get it, no matter what. But in this case, you only needed a two to send the game to overtime. With enough time to pass, it made a lot of sense to use Kobe as a decoy and maybe go inside to Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum to tie the game.
Instead, Ron Artest inbounded the ball to Kobe, who had a lot of trouble finding some space. By the time he caught the ball and tried to create, he had no choice but to throw up a one-footed, off-balance, 25-foot bank shot.
It went in as the buzzer sounded. Lakers 108, Heat 107.
After the game, I asked Kobe what happened.
"Lucky," he said, "it was a lucky shot."
"To win that ballgame," Phil Jackson added, "you need to be lucky. And we were tonight."
So did they make the wrong choice? Absolutely not. Kobe Bryant has a unique ability to come up big at the end of games. He's done it his whole career. I know this doesn't make a lot of sense, but I'd rather take my chances with Kobe taking a last-second shot while he's covered, than with any other Lakers player wide open. I've just seen him do it too often to bet against it.
Actually, this was the first time I can remember a shot that anybody thought was "lucky." Most of the time, he takes tough, well-contested shots that go in about half the time. But this wasn't one of those--it was a prayer, and it was answered.
"I knew he was going to make it," Ron Artest joked after the game. "That's why he's the Black Mamba."
I asked Andrew Bynum if he thought the Lakers were dead--down four with nine seconds to go.
"Yeah...pretty much," he said. "But nothing Kobe does really surprises me."
And that's why you give the ball to Bryant. Some guys just deliver when others don't. If you're lucky enough to have one of those guys, you give him the ball--covered or not.
Next up: the Phoenix Suns back for their final visit to Staples on Sunday